Live Sceloglaux albifacies albifacies specimen photographed between 1889 and 1910
|Common Name||Whēkau or The White-faced Owl.|
The Laughing Owl is a specie from the Sceloglaux genus. It was an endemic owl found in New Zealand, but is now extinct. It was plentiful when European settlers arrived in New Zealand in 1840.
There were white straps on the scapulars, and occasionally the hind neck. Mantle feathers were edged with white. The wings and tail had light brown bars. The tarsus had yellowish to reddish-buff feathers. The facial disc was white behind and below the eyes, fading to grey with brown stripes towards the centre. Some birds were more rufous, with a brown facial disk; this was at first attributed to subspecific differences, but is probably better related to individual variation. There are indications that males were more often of the richly colored morph. The eyes were very dark orange. Its length was 35.5-40 cm (14-15.7") and wing length 26.4 cm (10.4"), with males being smaller than females. Weight was around 600 grams.
The call of the Laughing Owl has been described as "a loud cry made up of a series of dismal shrieks frequently repeated". The species was given its name because of this sound. Other descriptions of the call were: "A peculiar barking noise ... just like the barking of a young dog"; "Precisely the same as two men "cooeying" to each other from a distance"; "A melancholy hooting note", or a high-pitched chattering, only heard when the birds were on the wing and generally on dark and drizzly nights or immediately preceding rain. Various whistling, chuckling and mewing notes were observed from a captive bird. Buller (1905) mentions the testimony of a correspondent who claimed that Laughing Owls would be attracted by accordion play. Given that recorded vocalizations are an effective means to attract owls, and given the similarity of a distant accordion's tune to the call of the Laughing Owl as reported, it is apparent that the method might have worked.
Their diet was diverse, encompassing a wide range of prey items, from beetles and weta up to birds and geckos of more than 250 grams, and later on rats and mice. Laughing Owls were apparently ground feeders, chasing prey on foot in preference to hunting on the wing.
Breeding began in September or October. The nests were lined with dried grass and were on bare ground, in rocky ledges, fissures or under boulders. Two white, roundish eggs were laid, measuring 44-51 x 38–43 mm (1.7-2" x 1.5-1.7"). Incubation took 25 days, with the male feeding the female on the nest.
In the North Island, specimens of the smaller subspecies rufifacies were allegedly collected from the forest districts of Mount Taranaki/Egmont (1856) and the Wairarapa (1868); the unclear history of the latter and the eventual disappearance of both led to suspicions that the bird may not have occurred on the North Island at all.
- ===The species was given its name because of this sound. Other descriptions of the call were: "A peculiar barking noise ... just like the barking of a young dog"; "Precisely the same as two men "cooeying" to each other from a distance"; "A melancholy hooting note", or a high-pitched chattering, only heard when the birds were on the wing and generally on dark and drizzly nights or immediately preceding rain.the laughing owl is an owl. it likes food===